I know well that on the first day of a new year it is traditional to set resolutions for the future - oaths of self improvement - and to narrow the past into convenient lists of ten best and worst. But today I choose to simply breathe and look around, take stock of all of it, no narrowing of the list.
It is, in truth, a day like any other January day, probably too crisp and cold to go outside, a few more minutes of sunlight than yesterday, a few fewer than tomorrow, our slow progression on to spring. Yet it is day one of the year in which I will turn 64 and sing that song - yes, that one - with the very same man who first played it for me at the age of sixteen. It is the year in which I will both retire from public service and publish my first book, one story in a life full of interesting chapters with many more come. It is the year when my grandson becomes old enough to read "Swallows and Amazons" and sail off into worlds he's never known. It is the year when his brother's vocabulary grows to the wondrous state of fluency. It is the year in which one son will finish his masters degree and the other will continue to invent new stories for new media. It is a year when I will reconnect with friends and commiserate about the fleeting of time and betrayal of bodies. It is the year when that sharp sense of loss for the wisdom and companionship of parents will probably not diminish but my appreciation will renew for how much of them there is to miss. This is the year when I explore my photography and my writing and the places they can take me.
I do not deny the things in my own life and the greater world that could be better than they are. The need to improve on a personal and universal level has been a constant in the short years of my lifetime and it will be no different when I am gone. Humans muck it up pretty badly and universally. Injustice, racism, cruelty, hunger, sexism, disease, inhuman acts beyond description have abounded this past year like all the others. I do not deny that they require a call to action, they always do. But I would contest the pessimistic view that things are worse than they have ever been. They are the challenges of an imperfect species and, as always, they require our attention. But let us also remember those bursts of magnificent creativity and goodness that improve not only our lives but our souls - the messy, wondrous brilliance that make us lucky to be human and alive. Those have abounded, too, and we are all the better for them.
I do not know what I'm going to do this year - that, in itself, is a first. My day-to-day compass is not fixed. I don't know where, exactly, I'm going to live and spend my time. I have not been this untethered since the day I graduated from college and said, "now what?" But I expect that in this year, as always I'll be centered by the ones I love, both family and friends, and from that circle I will take the challenges as they come.